Out of balance: a lesson

At a kindergarten soccer game this weekend, I noted how the coaches let the kids keep kicking the ball even when it goes out of bounds. This is probably because the ball is so often out of bounds; the kids might never get sustained playing time otherwise.

At one point, the ball rolled over to where my family was sitting. A little boy—the littlest, in fact—came running after his teammates, yelling: “Out of balance! Out of balance!”

We spectators giggled amongst ourselves: “Out of balance. So cute.”

The tiny guy stopped to look at us in all earnestness: “Out of balance means the ball is not on the court.” And he took off across the field after his kindergarten teammates, who’d managed to get the ball back in bounds, momentarily.

As we wiped the mirth streaming from our eyes, I thought about something a former mentor told me years ago about accepting approximations. It’s clear this little boy knows what he’s talking about. The ball was beyond the boundaries of the playing field. Never mind there wasn’t actually a court…basketball has a court, tennis has a court…he is learning. He’s in kindergarten. He will soon learn the word is bounds and that soccer is played on a field.

Certainly he will need to know the right terminology. But for now, let him develop some stamina and skills. Let him learn to be a team player. Let him love the game.

Truth is, in order to grow, sometimes things need to be kicked out of balance.

Soccer. Ashelia. CC BY-NC 2.0.

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with thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the weekly Slice of Life Story Challenge

Scientific method poem

For Day 25 of VerseLove on Ethical ELA, Linda Mitchell inspires teacher-poets with the scientific method. Linda says: “The scientific process reminds me of poetry. For me, poetry is about observing, questioning and predicting–which are vital, although not the total, of the scientific process.” She challenges poets to incorporate part of the scientific method in a poem: Make an observation; ask a question; form a hypothesis or testable explanation; make a prediction based on the hypothesis; test the prediction; and iterate: use the results to make new hypotheses or predictions.

My poem is dedicated to students, with a question I find myself asking too often. I left the area of referral out on purpose; could be behavior, academics…

Graphic Failure

Dear Student, I see you’ve been referred.

Why have you been referred?

Maybe it’s because your teacher
is afraid.

Not of you. Not really. 

You see, in the scheme of things, 
you should be the tip of 
a hypothetical pyramid,
with all the systemic structures
supporting you—in other words,
your needs should drive
everything else

your teacher, see, 
is the next closest layer
to you

and when this pyramid is
upside down
with the ponderous weight
of systems all at the top,
by the time it reaches
your teacher, 
the pressure
is immense
(research tells me this used to be
a form of execution in ancient times,
crushing, i.e., the adding of more
and more stones)

which means that if
this colossal pyramid
is inverted
there you are
the tip at the bottom
the whole system’s 
supposed
raison d’etre
bearing it all
like Atlas

no wonder
you have been referred

it is all too much

Climb (France through my eyes) docoverachieverCC BY 2.0

Sunflower acrostic

Happy National Poetry Month!

At Ethical ELA, Bryan Ripley Crandall kicks off VerseLove by inviting teacher-poets to compose acrostics: “Think of your  person, place, or phrase. Lay the letters onto the page as if fallen leaves. Game-on. Write as if you are ‘gifting’ to another, and use each letter to craft an original poem.”

I love acrostics and have long believed this ancient form is underused.

As I pondered a topic, I went to the refrigerator door to start breakfast, and there it was:

The Drawing My Granddaughter Made During a “Sleepover”

Six years old, blissfully
Unaware that it’s the emblem of a 
Nation being invaded, she announces:
Franna, I am making this for you.
Love crayoned on the paper as
Our own special symbol.
When night falls, we put on our pink pajamas
Emblazoned with these light-seeking faces
Radiating joy of now, promise for tomorrow.

She texts me in the evenings sometimes to be sure I am wearing my sunflower pajamas

Green

Haiku in Honor of My Six-Year-Old Granddaughter
Whose Favorite Color Is Green

Riding in the car
I muse aloud: Look how green
the fields are today.

From the carseat: Yes.
Greenest green I’ve ever seen.
—Children are poets.

Photo: The sunset of the green field. Bardia Photography. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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with thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge every day in the month of March. This is my sixth year participating.

Z is for… zapple

Breakfast duty at school… I see raised hands.

I go over.

I am expecting one of the following:

I can’t open my milk.
I can’t open this [bag of apple slices].
Can I have a paper towel? I spilled my ____.
Can I have a cup of water/a spoon/a fork/ another biscuit?

I have my responses ready:

Have you tried?
Have you tried?
How did this happen?

Put on your mask and go get it (x3)… and sorry, you only get one.

This is what happens, however, when I get to the little girl sitting with her sister and cousin:

Child: Look, my apple has a z on it.

Me: A z?

[Child holds up apple slice. Peel has been nibbled so that, yes, a sort of letter z remains]

Me: Wow, that IS a z. I guess you could say z is for apple. No—zapple!

[Child giggles]

Child: Yeah, I can eat it and have magic powers. [waggles fingers in air like a magician. Of sorts]

Older Sister [in spite of herself]: Yeah, you can go ZAP! [performs a ZAP with an air wand]

Even Older Cousin [even more in spite of herself]: Or, you could ZOOM.

Me: Ooo, yes! After eating the zapple, you could zap and zoom down the hall to discover a zebra peeking out of a room…

[offstage light shines on the faces of all three children]

Me [seizing the moment]: That would make a great story, wouldn’t it?

Even Older Cousin [with a determined nod]: I’m gonna start typing it on my Chromebook as soon as I get to class…

I leave them talking excitedly about What Happens Next.

Zapples clearly are magical.

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with thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Zapple… er, Slice of LIFE Story Challenge every day in the month of March. This is my sixth year participating.

This is a rainbow

an acrostic

The Artist’s Inner Dialogue

Today is a
Happy day
I feel it as I
Skip along the sidewalk

feel like making
Something beautiful with

All kinds of colors

Red orange yellow green blue

And my favorites,
Indigo and violet…
Now I leave my happy beautifulness
By way of chalkdust
Or maybe fairydust 
Where you can find it, too

Photo: Margaret Simon. “This Photo Wants to be a Poem,” Reflections on the Teche.

Thank you for the inspiration, Margaret.

Paper dragon haiku

Discouraging week
somewhat less than magical
suddenly transformed

by the appearance
of a tiny green dragon
and its paper tree

enchantment handmade
and proudly given by a
sweet student, to me

Created by a fourth-grader, the fantastic little beast lives on my bookcase now

Struck

Yesterday, it happened

at morning arrival
buses and cabs lined up
behind the school
waiting for the ringing of the bell
to release students into the building

staff gathering outside to receive them

while across the narrow street
from the sidewalk
graced by quaint and picturesque houses

a little child crossing

a car coming out of nowhere

not stopping in time

the sound

indefinable thud
like one low drumbeat
or heartbeat

a split-second silence
before collective screaming

then sirens

flashing lights

a knot of people

police and EMTs

a little red jacket in a heap
on the gray asphalt

two loose shoes underneath the car

staff, all the while
attempting to usher
other children inside
but they have seen
they have seen

some saw the little one
clutched in his weeping mother’s arms

some saw him
helped to his feet,
able to stand

some saw EMS get him
into the ambulance

all the long, dark
storm-clouded day
murmurs of
shock
horror
worry

until, just before dismissal,
he came to school with his mom
to show his friends he is okay
his little scatched face, pure sunshine

many of us
overcome with tears
awestruck
by this heroism
on her part
and his

and by the amazing grace
of God

that happened yesterday.


Child shoezendriticCC BY-NC-SA.



A game played long ago

This morning I woke to the sounds of wind gusts and snowflakes striking the window…brought back the memory of my oldest boy and a game we played long ago. A pantoum:

A game played long ago:
Little boy crawling into bed, whispering
“The North Wind will blow,
we will have snow!”

Little boy crawling into bed, whispering
“It’s so cold—I can’t get warm.
We will have snow!
Let me sleep here in your arms.”

“It’s so cold—I can’t get warm.
Until I am grown and gone,
let me sleep here in your arms”
—the memory of these moments!

Until I am dead and gone
the North Wind will blow
the memory of these moments,
a game played long ago.